Award-winning documentaries highlight diverse trans experiences at REELING 2016 film festival, 9/22-29

The 34th edition of Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, taking place September 22-29, offers a number of award-winning documentaries that explore the vast American trans experience. The personal and intimate REAL BOY (showing Friday, Sept. 23) follows a California teen over four years as he transitions from teenager to adulthood, with his best friend and reluctant but loving mother. And MAJOR! (screening Saturday, Sept. 24) chronicles the life and times of Chicago-born trans activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a leader of the Stonewall riots who now advocates for the incarcerated.

On Sunday, Sept. 25, Chicago-based filmmaker, André Pérez (pictured), founder of the Transgender Oral History Project and previous StoryCorps Facilitator, debuts their documentary web series at Reeling. The series and community engagement campaign, AMERICA IN TRANSITION, looks at social change from the perspective of trans people in marginalized communities. The inaugural episode, LEARNING TO RECOGNIZE MYSELF AGAIN, shares the story of an HIV+ trans woman in Arkansas. LEARNING TO RECOGNIZE MYSELF AGAIN screens as part of the Real Talk: Queer Doc Shorts program Sunday afternoon at Chicago Filmmakers. André will be in attendance for a Q&A. The full Reeling schedule is available at

Major! (Annalise Ophelian / USA, 2015)
Before transgender activists of color Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, there was Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Filmmaker Annalise Ophelian documents the revolutionary life of this extraordinary activist who has fought for transgender rights for 40 years. Suffused with an endearing spirit, MAJOR! has been embraced by audiences and festival judges alike – taking both the audience award at Outfest and a special jury mention for its “depiction of undying activism.” Come discover for yourself this fascinating, unique, inspiring individual.

Real Boy (Shaleece Haas / USA, 2016)
The tricky passage from teenager to adulthood is difficult enough to navigate without the additional challenges facing Bennett Wallace, a trans teen who urgently wants to make the leap in all aspects of his life. In Shaleece Haas’s intimate and deeply moving debut documentary, Bennett, a gifted songwriter and musician, invites viewers to join him on his journey as he strives to become the man and the artist that he has dreamed of. A vibrant and joyful film that won the Audience Award at Frameline, REAL BOY will inspire viewers to listen to songs of their own inner voices. With musician Joe Stevens (Coyote Grace).

Learning to Recognize Myself Again | (André Pérez / USA, 2015)
Arkansas: The threat of violence is an everyday experience for trans people. When Tiommi Luckett’s worst fears come true, she struggles to reconnect with the bold, adventurous woman she’s always been against a backdrop of self-imposed isolation.

Reeling, the second-oldest LGBTQ film festival in the world and a beloved Chicago cultural institution for more than 30 years, presents nearly 40 features and numerous shorts from around the world, most of them Chicago premieres, some U.S. and/or World premieres. The festival opens Thursday, September 22 at Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.) and then moves to the Landmark Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark St.) for the bulk of the festival. The fest’s home base, Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.), will also host screenings.


André Pérez, Director/ Producer of America in Transition


André Pérez is a mixed-race transgender oral historian, educator, filmmaker and community organizer who founded the Transgender Oral History Project in 2007. He created a traveling multimedia historical exhibit about trans activism in 2009. André’s videos have been featured at History Center of Tompkins County, Philadelphia Folklore Center and the Chicago History Museum. André recorded 500 interviews for StoryCorps including 50 segments that aired on NPR and WBEZ. André currently works as Director of Marketing and Communications at Trans Lifeline. He is collaborating with Open TV this summer to release Been T/Here, a docuseries about trans people of color in Chicago focusing on love, creativity and healing. He takes American in Transition on a 15-city college tour beginning this fall.

Reeling is supported by many local and national businesses and corporations without whom the festival would not be possible. Reeling thanks Presenting sponsor Showtime Networks; Premier sponsors Gilead, HereTV, Time Out Chicago, XFINITY and; Grand sponsors AARP, Gay Ad Network, Nexus Radio and Best Western Plus Hawthorne Terrace; and Major sponsors Coat of Arms and Yes! Press for their generous and essential support.

Visit for the full festival lineup.